#ACF2024: African billionaires challenged to invest in local start-ups

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 16 May 2024 at 12:33

The Africa CEO Forum 2024 kicked off in Kigali on Thursday with a call for African billionaires to invest in local start-ups.

Makhtar Diop, the Managing Director of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), argued that companies in Silicon Valley and other Western countries mainly fund most African start-ups.

The IFC boss noted that some of the disruptive start-ups had benefited from the organization’s direct funding, but more was needed to support the companies.

"We need to support our start-ups. It’s imperative that more funding, especially from the domestic private sector, is directed towards this vibrant sector. At IFC, we are trying to do that with our direct technology fund, and we are trying to invest in start-ups in technology that will make a difference for development. But we need more billionaires and millionaires in Africa to believe in these start-ups. These start-ups are still largely funded from Silicon Valley and other parts of the world,” Diop stated.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries.

Diop praised ongoing, revolutionary projects undertaken by organizations like Genomics Africa, which have helped Africa claim its position in research sectors previously dominated by other regions, saying "This is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in action."

He noted that genomics research leverages the rich biodiversity and genetic resources of the continent, laying the groundwork for precision medicine and the development of treatments tailored to the specific needs of the African population and diaspora.

To keep up Africa’s growth momentum, Diop emphasized the need to exploit digitization, stating that data is the new gold.

He also called for more investments in the education system, saying “It’s time to create emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

“It’s heart-warming to see Rwanda hosting regional institute of mathematics and IT and forging partnerships with renowned academic institutions. This is an example that needs to be multiplied and repeated across the continent.”

He called for increased partnerships and dialogue between the private and public sectors to achieve sustained economic development across all sectors, including energy and agriculture.

"Many of our utilities are in poor condition, which limits the ability of the private sector to invest in renewable energy generation. We lack a private sector presence in transmission and distribution. All these factors are hindering investment in this sector, which is crucial for Africa’s development," he stated.

Kigali welcomes the Africa CEO Forum for the second time since 2019 when the forum made its debut in the East Africa region. More than 2,000 business leaders and government officials are gracing the CEO forum.

President Paul Kagame his Mozambique counterpart Filipe Nyusi and two prime ministers, Patrice Emery Trovoada of Sao Tome and Robert Beugre Mambe of Côte d’Ivoire attended the opening ceremony on Thursday morning. Presidents William Ruto of Kenya, Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, and Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti are also expected at the two-day event.

Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is hosting the event alongside IFC.

The forum themed “At the table or on the menu?” is expected to challenge attendees to take decisive action for Africa’s future amidst global economic uncertainties.

Makhtar Diop, the Managing Director of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), argued that companies in Silicon Valley and other Western countries mainly fund most African start-ups.